Pain Matters

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Pain is the body’s warning sign that something is wrong. Many chronic illnesses and painful conditions cause pain—such as diabetes, arthritis and toothaches. But because people living with dementia struggle to express pain in typical ways, they often have untreated pain. This is especially an issue for people in the later stages of dementia who may struggle to communicate.


The Pain Matters Guide and Pain Journal are available to help family members, friends and caregivers of people with dementia recognize the relationship between responsive behaviour and pain. Behaviour has meaning and it may be an expression of pain.

Untreated pain can lead to depression, loss of appetite, social withdrawal, restlessness, aggression and agitation, which may be mistaken as side effects of dementia. When pain is not treated, its symptoms and responsive behaviours like these worsen.

Learn how to recognize the signs of pain by downloading the Pain Journal and Guide today:

Why can pain go untreated?

Man Holding Cane

People can mistakenly believe pain is:

  • Something to get used to
  • Mental, not a physical problem
  • A natural part of growing old
  • Something people use for attention
  • Something people with cognitive problems cannot reliably report
  • Best untreated because pain medications lead to addiction
  • Best untreated early on because using pain medications will limit later options

Not reporting pain is not the same as having no pain. A person with dementia may not report pain because they:

  • Believe in the myths mentioned above
  • Think that “complaining” about pain may make them fall out of favour
  • Mention discomfort, hurting, aching or sore, but not the specific word “pain”
  • Misinterpret the feeling of pain because of dementia
  • Fail to remember that pain occurred
  • Are unable to communicate due to being in the later stages of dementia

More Information

For more information please download the Pain Matters Guide or call your local Alzheimer Society.

Last Updated: 08/26/2018